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Magic 97, Hawks 88: Wasn’t pretty, but the Magic improved to 3-0 in preseason

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It was a rough shooting night for both teams but the Magic managed to find a way

NBA: Preseason-Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Magic showed that they can win ugly.

After impressive performances in their first two preseason games where just about everything clicked, the Magic emerged victorious on Wednesday when their offense was out of sync and shots weren’t falling. Strong defensive teams can better compensate for poor shooting performances, and that’s what the Magic did in their 97-88 victory over the up-tempo Hawks, winning a type of game that in previous seasons they likely would have lost.

The game began with what was by far the Magic’s worst quarter of the preseason to this point as they played with no rhythm on the offensive end, forced shots, missed some open looks and connected on just 28 percent of their field goal attempts in the first. Thanks to their strong play at the opposite end of the court, and with the Hawks shooting just 27 percent from the field, the Magic trailed just 20-18 heading into the second.

The Magic offense, already playing without Evan Fournier for rest purposes, then lost Aaron Gordon for the remainder of the game after he suffered a jaw contusion.

There was some improvement on the offensive end in the second. A 9-0 Magic run began when Markelle Fultz crossed another item off his to-do list: free throws. After missing his first three shots of what would be a bad shooting night (which included one three-point attempt that didn’t look so pretty), Fultz drew a foul to get to the line for the first time this preseason. He hit both, though oddly enough, his form wasn’t captured on camera for either attempt...

***UPDATE: FOOTAGE HAS SURFACED...

On the next possession, Fultz dribbled into the paint and converted one of his half-spin, step-back jumpers...

Terrence Ross, who led the Magic with 10 first-half points, connected on a three that capped the run and gave the Magic a 30-28 lead with 7:08 remaining in the half. The top highlight from the first half for the Magic came when Ross missed a three, grabbed his own rebound and threw a quick pass down low to Jonathan Isaac for the two-handed dunk...

The Magic, who led 46-44 at the break, began the second half with Al-Farouq Aminu starting in place of Gordon. A 14-4 Orlando run, capped by an 18-foot jumper by Aminu, gave Orlando it’s largest lead at 63-51 with five minutes left in the third. The Hawks quickly responded with a 7-0 run to inch closer.

The buzzword these days surrounding Mo Bamba are “purpose of play” as Steve Clifford looks for consistency from his young center. After two strong offensive performances to open the preseason, Bamba’s first field goal attempt on Wednesday didn’t come until under three minutes remained in the third when he converted a lay-in off a pretty feed from Fultz...

The two teams traded threes in the closing seconds of the quarter as the Magic closed the third with a 68-67 lead.

That trend continued in the fourth as the Hawks had a response for every Magic run. With the Magic up two, Fultz drove the lane and converted a lay-up in traffic. On the next possession, Fultz again attacked the paint, this time kicking it out to Ross, who converted his second three of the fourth to open an 84-77 Magic lead midway through the fourth.

That provided the separation the Magic needed as Clifford soon went deep into his bench to close out the game. The highlight of the closing minutes? Khem Birch attempting and making his first NBA three!

Ross had 20 points on 7-for-17 shooting (4 of 13 from three) to lead the Magic, who shot 37.6 percent and had 18 turnovers.

Isaac, in addition to helping hold John Collins to two points on 0-for-8 shooting, again filled the stat sheet with 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block. Nikola Vucevic also added 13 points in 23 minutes. Fultz finished with six points on just 2-for-10 shooting, with some misses coming from point blank range, and added two assists and three steals. Quiet night for Bamba, who had four points and only one rebound in 16 minutes.

Trae Young had 18 points to lead the Hawks, who shot 33.8 percent and had 27 turnovers.

Wasn’t pretty, but Orlando improves to 3-0.

The Magic now return to Orlando for their final three preseason games, beginning with the Boston Celtics on Friday night.